Veronica (fl. 1st c. CE?)

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Veronica (fl. 1st c. ce?)

Saint. Name variations: Berenice or Bernice; Berenike or Beronike. Possibly flourished around the 1st century ce. Feast Day is on July 12.

Acknowledged as a saint, Veronica allegedly met Jesus on the day of his crucifixion as he agonized his way to Calvary. Feeling compassion for his pain and predicament, she is said to have wiped his face with a cloth upon which thereafter was left a permanent likeness. There is no record of this episode in the canonical Gospels, although both Mark 15.40–41 and Luke 23.27–29 mention unnamed women-in-mourning among those in Jesus' train. A medieval version of the Acts of Pilate identified Veronica with the anonymous woman found in Matthew 9.20–22 whom Jesus is portrayed as having miraculously cured. (Variants of the same tale, however, call this woman "Bernice." The Acts of Pilate is an apocryphal work probably dating in its most complete form to the 4th century, although episodes incorporated in the better-developed version seem to have been referred to by Justin Martyr in the 2nd century.) Veronica's story as it now stands is no earlier than the 14th century, but it is possible that she is to be associated with a veil (called the Veronica Cloth or Veronica's Veil) bearing a hallowed visage which has been housed in Rome perhaps since the 8th century, and in Saint Peter's since the late 13th century. The name Veronica is derived from words meaning "true image," so it is possible—perhaps even probable—that Veronica as she now stands was invented to give a human touch to the existence of a holy relic which many believed to be a portrait of the living Jesus.

William Greenwalt , Associate Professor of Classical History, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California